By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Tito and the Birds is a Brazilian animated movie that transcends. His avian friends are everywhere, and they symbolize a higher power he immediately recognizes. The alien rocks (that were once human) he finds are bumps on a log for a reason…
Praise is high for this work, and it will soon land on home video on April 23 courtesy of Shout! Factory.
This film makes for a unique post-Easter treat when considering its themes. Ultimately, the story is one of hope and releasing ourselves from fear propagated by mass media. The pointed stab at this topic does not make this work necessarily for youths, but it may have those watching this film start thinking for themselves more.
The themes explored are not limited to Charlie Chaplin exploring societal problems to his era. He was outspoken with his views of the Cold War and advocated internationalism. The Great Dictator satirized the fears of the time. Fast forward to Tito (Pedro Henrique), and he needed a foil to ultimately challenge him. The only way to stay safe is for people to sell their soul to the devil, an evil media and real estate tycoon by the name of Alaor Souza (Mateus Solano). He practically owns everything.
Nothing escapes his notice, including a ten-year-old boy who wants to provide a cure besieging his home town. All those rocks can be restored. But in order to develop it is, he has to recreate the device his father, Rufus (Matheus Nachtergaele) invented to understand these fine feathered friends. They are key to finding that solution.
However, as the opening act revealed, an accident sends the lad to the hospital and the elder into hiding (we’re led to believe he’s with the angels). In some cultures and religions, it’s believed that birds are representatives of spiritual well being. Interestingly, one pigeon stays faithful to Tito. With the world falling apart, time is not on the boy’s side. He has to finish the project, and Souza is not being helpful. Fortunately, he finds it with Sarah (Marina Serretiello) and Buiú (Vinicius Garcia). Although Teo (Enrico Cardoso) is not as helpful, he eventually comes around to join the right side.
Hope gives this film an uplifting message. It’s possible to escape from Souza’s oppression. Unlike the liberation of the soul in what Easter represents, this film sees freedom at a different level. There is more to this movie than it’s beautiful colour palette and heavy use of Expressionism and oil-painted backgrounds to make it visually spectacular.
With the home video release, the added featurette with Director Gustavo Steinberg and Producer Daniel Greco explaining the film is helpful. When considering this movie took home the 2019 Annie Award, it’s certainly one for animation enthusiasts to take notice on. To fully understand this work, I feel a longer commentary track would have been better. This movie will certainly be studied and to add to my collection, I will have to track down the international release too for comparison’s sake.
4 Stars out of 5